CASEMENT CELTIC have got off to a good start in the new Munster Senior League season and hopes are high for the Ballyphehane club.
Playing in the second division of the Munster senior league, Darren Haines’ side have been making huge progress over the past few seasons and while it’s difficult not having a structured underage at the club, captain Niall Calnan is pleased with the clubs plans and progress.
“Most clubs in the city have a full schoolboys setup, it’s ideal to have it in place but it’s not something we have so we don’t dwell on it,” said Calnan.
“The club have worked tiressly over the years to add to the squad each season and huge credit to them for doing so as it hasn’t being easy.
“There are alot of great people who have done superb work and who continue to do so, to keep the club running and the progress that has been made over the past few seasons has been great and hopefully pays off soon.
“I’ve been with Casement for five years, I am the longest serving player currently on the team so I’ve seen highs and lows for the club.
"We always strive to play good football, the management want us playing a certain way and everybody buys in.
"We came close a few years back in the league to getting promoted finishing third and a defeat in a Pop Keller cup final but it’s been ups and downs since then.
"For the most part we always had a good eleven but keeping a squad together for a full season has proven difficult for one reason or another. "Consistency has been a problem in terms of results but with a proper squad of players this year we are hoping to put that right.
"I think we can."
Calnan is a true leader on and off the pitch and a player whom the team really look up to and while he is one of the eldest of the team, he is still young at 32, but his maturity has been key in captaining the side.
“I play in the middle of the park, and although I’m 33 this year I still feel fit enough for it.
"As you get older, playing football becomes even more important because you know the end is nearing closer.
"I love it, nothing beats 90 minutes on the pitch. Everything outside of that painted rectangle becomes irrelevant.
"I’m captain this year which brings an extra responsibility but something I’ve always seen myself as in the team being one of the older lads.
"I also believe there are more than me as leaders on the team and I think that will be key to success this year.
“If you look at the age of our squad there’s not too many spring chickens anymore as most of the lads are mid 20s now so there’s a fair bit of experience and fellas coming to the right age, this brings the right mentality to want to go and win something.
"We added some new players to the squad to mention a few like Ian O’Callaghan, Cian O’Rourke and brothers Sean and Liam Buckley, as-well as many more quality players so we are excited for the season ahead and hope to kick on.
“We did a good pre-season, nothing insane but we felt the football being played and the fitness was sufficient going into the league.
"We lost our first league game to Tramore but we responded well with back to back wins in the intermediate cup and a heavy win against buttevent in the league.”
While Calnan is a key figure in the squad, he was quick to praise the work of the management.
“Darren Haines has been at the helm a few years and he’s quick to add players to the team as well as the coaching staff.
"He brought in the services of Eric Goulding and Chris Byrne in the coaching department and the effort and quality of training that’s happening in Casement Park is starting to pay off.
"Mark Russell has also been brought in to recruit players, something he’s already excelling in at an early stage.”
While it’s great to get a good start to the season, Calnan knows there’s a long season ahead and although his hopes are to win silverware this season, he knows it’s going to take a lot of hard work.
“We’re happy with our start to the season but as we all know there's nothing won in September so the plan is to work hard and fight for each other.
"There’s talented players in the team but there’s a lot of fight in us too, there’s a lot of belief building that we can go on and get some silverware this time out.
"So now we need to work hard to achieve that. I do believe we have the squad and management and more importantly the backing from the club to do so.
"As everyone knows though, the lower divisions are sometimes the toughest. They can be very difficult to get out of but that’s our aim.
"We hope we can continue to be a tough opposition to play against."